Students urged to heed fire safety

Bottles - after the fire

Bottles - after the fire

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Firefighters have urged new students to keep fire safety in mind as they begin life at universities and colleges across Scotland.

As Freshers’ Week approaches many young people will this month leave home for the first time to move into halls of residence or other rented accommodation.

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

It is often accompanied by emergency crews being called to needless fires and false alarms.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) wants students to recognise risks and avoid putting themselves, their housemates and their new communities in danger.

Assistant Chief Officer David McGown, SFRS temporary director of prevention and protection, said: “Moving away from home for the first time is a hugely exciting moment and we want young people to remember it for the right reasons.

“Most emergency fire calls to student premises are caused by carelessness and within halls of residence false alarms are a particular concern.

“Many of these incidents could be easily avoided if people consider their actions.”

SFRS has produced a student safety leaflet to give those moving away from home some tips to prevent emergencies and false alarms.

It details simple steps like choosing never to cook while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, explaining that doing so significantly increases the risk of a fire starting, causing injuries and even claiming lives.

Advice is also given to help people avoid false alarms, which not only inconvenience students but also risk lives.

ACO McGown explained: “When firefighters have to attend false alarms they are unable to respond to real emergencies and the extra time needed for other crews to get there could have tragic consequences.

“Candles, incense sticks, cigarettes and cooking all produce smoke that can trigger a false alarm.

“They can also be caused by aerosol sprays and the steam from bathrooms and irons, so people should never use sprays directly under smoke detectors and they should always keep bathroom doors closed.

“Anyone living in halls will find that it’s probably against their accommodation agreement to use candles, incense sticks or portable cookers and heaters in their room, but if these are used anywhere then it’s important people take extra care.”

He continued: “Young people who have moved out for the first time often don’t understand that individual carelessness is the cause of many alarms and the resulting evacuations.

“The fact is smoke and heat alarms are sensitive because they need to be.

“In the event of a fire starting early warning is absolutely crucial to people getting safely out, so no-one should ever cover a detector or delay getting out if an alarm activates.”

Halls of residence have fire-resistant doors in key areas. These should never be wedged open as when shut they protect escape routes from smoke, heat and flames.

Stairwells, landings and hallways should always be kept clear of rubbish, bikes, furniture or any other items that could impede someone trying to escape an emergency.

Where students are moving into shared rented accommodation it is important they check there are working smoke or heat alarms in the flat and on stairs and landings.

They should also check there are no bars on the windows and that they can be easily opened from the inside

Furniture should be checked to make sure it has fire-resisting labels. Items made before 1988 may not be match or fire-resistant.

Free home fire safety visits are available by clicking on the ‘book now’ button on the SFRS Facebook page, by calling 0800 0731 999, texting FIRE to 80800 or by visiting www.firescotland.gov.uk.